The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

New year. Old challenges.

Written by John R. Platt & Tara Lohan

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From plastic pollution to extreme weather and the extinction crisis, the year ahead promises tough fights, enormous challenges and critical opportunities

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

A new year brings with it new opportunities — and more of the same environmental threats from the previous 12 months.

But as we see year after year, many environmental issues tend to fly under the radar. Sure, climate change has started to get wider coverage from some newspapers and TV networks, but a lot of important stories still get missed (or dismissed by partisan outlets). Meanwhile the media devotes precious little space or airtime to stories about endangered species, environmental justice, pollution or sustainability.

Maybe that’s why these issues also get so little attention from legislators or the general public.

We can work to change that. Here are six of the biggest but most likely to be ignored environmental stories that The Revelator expects to follow in 2022.

Biden-watch and the specter of 2024

Following last year’s difficult election, we proclaimed 2021 the start of “the rebuilding years.”

That has proved somewhat true: Under President Biden, many of the previous administration’s antienvironmental initiatives and deregulatory efforts have fallen like dominoes.

But in other ways, Biden has not lived up to his campaign promises on environmental issues. Most notably, the administration licensed new fossil fuel drilling rights at a breakneck pace in 2021, in stark contrast to the candidate’s promises (and even some of his early symbolic actions, such as his executive order to make the U.S. government carbon-neutral by the year 2050).

Although the Beltway press doesn’t dig into this as often, all eyes should be on Biden’s next environmental moves. Can he deliver on the real threats facing the planet? Or will this administration become yet another failure for climate and biodiversity?

We’re guessing it will be a combination of both, with some clearcut victories in need of amplification and a few partial or flat-out failures.

The real proof in the political pudding will come this November, when the 2022 midterm election could create long-term challenges for the planet. The increasingly authoritarian Republican party is doing everything it can to game both the 2022 and 2024 elections in its favor: voter suppression, redistricting, removing bipartisan election officials, and even passing legislation to allow it to throw out election results the GOP doesn’t like, all while perpetuating the damaging Big Lie of election fraud to discredit the entire process.

The media, other legislators, activists and voters need to make sure this stays a key component of the stories we tell in the year(s) ahead. Because if Trump or someone like him ascends again to the presidency in 2024, or if the Republicans take over the House in 2022, then it’s one step closer to lights out for the planet.

Biodiversity in crisis

hellbenderhrA hellbender blends in perfectly against the rocks of a headwater stream. Rob Hunter/Hellbender Press

This past year saw several big-picture studies identifying the extinction risk of large groups of species, and the news wasn’t good. One third of shark species, the studies found, are threatened, as are 30% of treeshalf of all turtles16% of dragonflies and damselflies30% of European birds and 16% of Australian birds.

And then, of course, there were the extinctions. (Hellbender Press covered the extinction of the ivory-billed woodpecker.)

Tragically, we don’t expect any of this to slow down in 2022. We’ve already heard from sources about potential extinction declarations that could come in the months ahead, mostly for species that haven’t been seen in several decades.

As usual, few of these get widely covered in the media. We’ll do our best to bring you this news, as well as conservation success stories that tend to get overlooked in our “if it bleeds, it leads” media environment.

The pandemic will also continue to affect the conservation movement, and we need to keep these issues in the public eye. The past two years have seen a lot less on-the-ground research around the world, although some scientists have started to break through the need to stay at home and gotten out into the field.

Will the same thing happen with important international discussions? More than 190 nations are currently scheduled to meet in April to discuss global agreements to protect nature and biodiversity. The arrival of the omicron variant — one more reminder that vaccines still haven’t been equitably distributed around the world — has now put that meeting, and perhaps others like it, in jeopardy.

But life finds a way. Even if we can’t do work in nature or in person, there’s always Zoom. The work that concluded sharks’ extinction risk wouldn’t have been possible without today’s online communication tools. These types of events don’t generate as much media attention, but they will generate stories worth telling if we’re open to listening.

A plastic mess

Will this be the year the United States finally hears the message about the dangers of plastic pollution?

Let’s hope so, because a new report from the National Academy of Sciences, published in December, revealed that the United States is a top contributor to the problem. According to the report, U.S. residents generated more plastic waste in 2016 than any other country — a staggering 42 million metric tons. That’s more than all the European Union and twice that of China.

The report, which was mandated by Congress, recommends the United States develop a comprehensive policy to reduce plastic waste in the environment. Of course legislators could get a jump on that if Congress passed the Break Free From Plastic Act introduced last March.

And there’s another strategy, too — turning off the tap on plastic production by halting the extraction of fossil fuels that provide plastic feedstocks and stopping the build out of massive new petrochemical facilities. The Army Corps of Engineers is in the midst of an environmental review of one such project now — a $9 billion project by Formosa Plastics in St. James Parish, Louisiana. That could set the stage for a lot of future progress.

No matter what happens, the focus needs to remain on this issue, which not only poisons communities but exacerbates the climate crisis. It’s time for leadership, not just in this country, but around the world.

Expect extremes

There should be nothing surprising anymore about the fact that we’re in for a wild weather ride every year now, as climate change turns up the heat and supercharges many storms and wildfires.

From 1980-2020 the United States had on average about seven weather and climate events that topped $1 billion each. But from 2016-2020 that average has shot up to 16.

Researchers are increasingly able to show the fingerprints of climate change on specific weather events. A Climate Brief investigation into the field of “extreme event attribution,” pioneered by scientists at World Weather Attribution, showed that climate change made 70 percent of 405 extreme weather events either more likely or more severe. The media needs to make this connection more often.

So, we know it’s coming. Now what will we do about it? Expect to see more stories about climate change resilience and how states will spend the $50 billion earmarked to protect against droughts, heat and floods in the new infrastructure bill. And hopefully we’ll see ample coverage of how this money gets to the communities that need it the most.

Doing Renewables Right

We’re off and running — or at least jogging — on the race to decarbonize. Initial projections show that in 2022 the United States could see a record amount of new wind energy (27 gigawatts) coming online, as well as twice as much utility-scale solar (44 gigawatts) compared to last year, and six times as much energy storage (8 gigawatts).

Meanwhile 28 percent of U.S. coal plants are projected to close by 2035.

 But don’t hold on too tightly to those projections for renewables. Rising costs and supply-chain problems could slow or halt some planned projects. On the other hand, renewables could get a big boost if Congress manages to passes the Build Back Better bill.

Ramping renewables will come with a few other challenges, too, that we should keep our eyes on: Can raw materials like lithium and cobalt be sourced without endangering human rights or terrestrial and marine ecosystems? Can projects be sited and managed in ways that don’t exacerbate biodiversity concerns? Can we ensure that poor communities and communities of color that have borne the brunt of the fossil fuel economy be the first beneficiaries in the energy transition and leaders in the process? These are the types of tough questions everyone should start asking as we make this vitally important transition.

Getting Direct

3D2A2F6C B919 4295 B244 36D48A4BF9BD 1 105 cProtestors chant and wave signs urging TVA to commit to a fossil fuel-free future during a protest in downtown Knoxville this summer. Courtesy Amy Rawe/Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Even amidst the pandemic, dedicated environmental activists refused to let their voices be silenced.

We’ve seen a dramatic rise in direct action over the past few months, with climate protestors temporarily disrupting Australia’s largest coal port by scaling and then suspending themselves from massive machinery, going on a very public 14-day hunger strikedefending a sacred waterway in British Columbia, protesting for voting rights and a whole lot more.

And they’re just warming up. The Extinction Rebellion climate protest group has promised a return to direct action now that vaccination rates have increased — indeed, they’ve been quite active the past few weeks.

The protests and disruptions reflect societal anger at corporate and government resistance to reform. They present the world with dramatic images and powerful messages, many of which get otherwise ignored by the media and legislatures. These events might not achieve much individually, but collectively, given time, they work.

That’s also why such activism is so risky. Last month Chilean activist Javiera Rojas was murdered, the latest in an ever-increasing string of deaths and other violent attacks committed against environmental defenders around the world.

These are the stories we all need to watch — and the messages we should never forget.

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  • University of Tennessee climate panel: Scientists say don't despair. Yet.
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    Scientists discuss climate challenges and solutions during 2021 One Health Day

    As climate experts and scientists huddled in Glasgow in an international effort to stem potentially disastrous global environmental changes, a panel of doctors representing multiple disciplines at the University of Tennessee and beyond offered their assessments of climate challenges and solutions.

    Their take on climate change? We have problems, but we also have solutions. Hopelessness will drive you crazy. Stay healthy, stay informed and do your part to mitigate the long-term environmental consequences of a changing Earth. 

    Above all: Don’t despair and don’t lose hope.

    The panel, held Nov. 3 at the UT Student Union and presented by the UT One Health Initiative, consisted of the following experts:

    -Dr. Gus Engman, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture 

    -Dr. Kate Evans, Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    -Dr. Joshua Fu, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennesse

    -Dr. Sindhu Jagadamma, Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

    -Dr. Kristina Kintziger, Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee

    Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity and don’t include the full response. Questions were submitted ahead of time or during the panel discussion. 

    What do you see as the largest threats of climate change, especially related to your individual research interests?

    Engman: Changing precipitation patterns are something I think about a lot.

    Pretty much all the rivers in the world are expected to have changes to their flow regime.

    These changes in droughts and floods are a really large issue.

    I think a lot about aquatic communities. If we are scarce on drinking water, we are always going to prioritize people having that water, over the fish or the bugs in the streams. 

    There are all kinds of impacts to life histories and interactions with communities in streams. 

    When animals are stressed because of these changes in precipitation patterns and changes in flow patterns, they might become more susceptible to other stressors, like disease. 

    Changes in algal community composition can impact the entire water quality of a stream, and that might happen because of these changes in precipitation patterns.

    These places that are experiencing these extreme droughts really worry me. The Colorado River already doesn’t even flow all the way to the ocean anymore. That’s a huge change. Because we take up so much water for agriculture. 

    If a stream runs out of water, it’s not a stream anymore.

    Evans: From a meteorological perspective, the biggest event that hurts people's health is actually heat waves. A lot of press goes to tornadoes and hurricanes and storms but in fact these large domes of hot air (are deadly), which happen because of changes in the large-scale weather patterns.

    The greenhouse effect insulates the earth, it makes it more uniform in temperature and so that changes the flow patterns that go around the earth. That changes those big weather systems that come in and how long they stick around. 

    When you talk about these long droughts, we know that’s what's we have to understand: Will they last longer, be more humid, less humid, and that has huge impacts for human health as well as the food they eat and the plants that grow. 

    Kintziger: Heat also has a bigger impact on a more indirect pathway to human health. Not just heat-related illness but also cardiovascular impacts, renal impacts and even mental health impacts.

    Heat is the one that keeps me up at night. We are seeing increasing temperatures globally and we also have this urban heat island affect. 

    Our vulnerable populations in the cities — inner cities with lower-income housing, homeless populations — they are going to experience heat very differently than people who live in newer buildings with better cooling and infrastructure and have better capabilities for adapting to heat. 

  • (Remember this?) Report: Sen. Joe Manchin, a holdout Democrat on climate-change legislation, is a "coal baron"

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    The Guardian: Manchin monkey-wrenches climate change legislation because he's made millions off fossil fuels

    West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the Democratic linchpin for game-changing climate legislation proposed in a budget bill as part of the Biden administration's plan to provide aid to families as well as give a boost to efforts to reduce global warming, has thrown a now-infamous wrench in the works. 

    He has vigorously opposed key parts of the climate legislation included in the 2022 budget bill. Per the Guardian, it's simply because he and his family have made a fortune off coal extraction in the relatively impoverished state of West Virginia and elsewhere.

    "Financial records detailed by reporter Alex Kotch for the Center for Media and Democracy and published in the Guardian show that Manchin makes roughly half a million dollars a year in dividends from millions of dollars of coal company stock he owns. The stock is held in Enersystems, Inc, a company Manchin started in 1988 and later gave to his son, Joseph, to run," according to the Guardian.

     "He has already effectively succeeded in stripping the bill of its most powerful climate change provision, a program that would have rapidly shut down coal and gas-fired power plants and replaced them with wind and solar power," according to the New York Times.

  • Requiem for the Lord God Bird
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    Movie footage from Louisiana, 1935 by Arthur Allen. Courtesy of Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
     

    The ivory-billed woodpecker is officially extinct, and it strikes a chord in Knoxville

    Clinging to a maple in the bayou, Jim Tanner finally had the rare nestling in his grasp. 

    He fitted it with a numbered leg band and placed the bird back in its hole high off the ground. 

    But true to its seldom-seen self, the juvenile ivory-billed woodpecker squirmed free and fluttered to the base of a giant maple tree in a southern Louisiana swamp owned at the time by the Singer Sewing Machine Co.

    The year was 1936, and Jim Tanner was in the midst of doctorate research at Cornell University funded by the Audubon Society as part of a push to prevent the pending extinctions of multiple bird species, including the California condor, roseate spoonbill, whooping crane and ivory-billed woodpecker. Eighty-five years later, the regal woodpecker would be the only one grounded for eternity.

    In the heat and rain of mucky, gassy bayous, Tanner compiled data on the range, population, habitat and prevalence of ivory-billed woodpeckers. He camped for weeks at a time in the swamps of the birds’ original range.

    On this day, his only goal was to band the bird but he rushed down the tree and picked up the agitated but uninjured woodpecker.

    He also wanted photographs.

    Tanner took advantage of the moment.

    He placed the bird upon the shoulder of an accompanying and accommodating game warden for 14 shots from his Leica.

    They were probably the first, and perhaps the last, photographs of a juvenile ivory-billed woodpecker photographed by Tanner in its natural habitat. He named the bird Sonny, and he was the only known member of the species to be banded with a number.

    The regal, smart, athletic bird, which peaceably flew over its small slice of Earth for some 10,000 years, was declared extinct last month by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Twenty-two other species also qualified for removal from the Endangered Species List — in the worst possible way.

    The ivory bill inhabited the swamps of the Deep South, far removed from Rocky Top, but old visages of the departed were found in Little Switzerland in South Knoxville. The work of Tanner, who would go on to complete a rich ecological research career at the University of Tennessee, has been memorialized by a talented East Tennessee science writer.

    And the Southern Appalachian region has other long-gone kinships with species that vanished from the Earth a long time ago. 

  • Climate change brings historic rains and ruin to Southern Appalachians and Middle Tennessee

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    Washington Post: Devastating Middle Tennessee floods latest consequence of climate change

    Training thunderstorms dumped 17 inches of rain within 24 hours last week in Middle Tennessee, causing a cascade of runoff that led to localized flash flooding of creeks and rivers that killed at least 20 people and destroyed the small town of Waverly. That amount of rain, which a climatologist said had a 1 in 1,000 chance of occurring, would set a record for the highest amount of daily rainfall recorded in the entire state.

    A lesser-noted flood of the Pigeon River just over the state line in Haywood County, North Carolina a week ago killed at least five people and destroyed homes and property as the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred moved over the region. The towns of Canton and Clyde were particularly hard hit. A rain gauge in Cruso recorded nearly 15 inches of rain in less than three days, according to the Smoky Mountain News. Nine inches fell within a 24-hour period.

    Deadly floods in Germany and the European lowcountry this summer that killed 200 people were also attributed to climate change.

    A warmer atmosphere holds exponentially more moisture, so such intense rainstorms will increase in coming years as climate change reshapes the Earth, scientists told the Washington Post.

    "It’s yet another example of how climate change has loaded the dice for disaster, experts say. The floods that people lived through in the past are no match for the events that are happening today. And what in 2021 seems like an unprecedented catastrophe may by 2050 become an annual occurrence," the Post reported.

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  • Clean-energy advocates take demands to base of TVA towers and power
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    IMG 4207Alex Pulsipher holds a sign demanding that TVA transition to 100 percent renewable energy at a rally Wednesday in Market Square in Knoxville. Courtesy Amy Rawe/Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

    Varied environmental groups offer unified plea for clean energy, coal ash management and accountability from TVA

    It was people power generating energy at Market Square in downtown Knoxville on Wednesday.

    A coalition of civic and environmental groups and their representatives met at the bottom of the two Tennessee Valley Authority towers urging the public utility to reopen meetings to public comment; swear off all fossil fuels by 2030; and carefully tend to the needs of those affected by coal ash and devise a plan to contain it for the safety of current and future generations.

    The event was punctuated by a march around the Market Square block where some 60 sign-waving and chanting marchers received supportive horn honks from motorists and encouragement from multitudes of outdoor diners — some of whom were handed information sheets and may have just been introduced to the real concept and causes of climate change.

    The last portion of the event featured coal-ash workers, a widow, orphan and wife sharing the pain associated with cleanup of the Kingston coal ash spill, which sent a wicked stew of slurry through areas adjacent to that coal plant in December 2008. Dozens of workers laboring under a contractor for TVA eventually developed serious illnesses and died. 

    Other coal-ash issues faced by TVA include recent reports that a playground and sports field adjacent to its Bull Run Fossil Plant in Claxton, Tennessee were contaminated with potentially deadly byproducts of coal ash mounded for storage nearby.

    Despite a decades-long effort to reduce local plant production, TVA is still a notable contributor to fossil-fuel emissions, ranging from its coal plants (which, including Bull Run, are up for retirement soon) to its natural gas-fired plants. Attendees at Wednesday’s rally called for a complete retirement of TVA carbon emissions and a transition to the use of purely renewable electricity

    TVA likely plans to replace the bulk of its power generated from coal-fired plants with natural-gas derived electricity.

  • A lot of aquatic life is now swimming, crawling, balling and growing in a weird pharmaceutical stew

    The Revelator: Residual drugs largely unfiltered by existing wastewater plants

    Aquatic species around the world are exposed to at least 600 types of residual drugs, ranging from anti-inflammatories to antidepressants, and it’s not fully understood how these chemicals will ultimately affect marine ecosystems.

    Some research indicates that a species of crayfish is emboldened by antidepressant compounds in the presence of predators, lessening its flight response. Scientists have also noted the presence of pharmaceuticals among invertebrates, as well as seaweed.

    More work is needed to further document the effects of the chemicals on the behavior and reproduction of aquatic life, but people can temper the introduction of pharmaceuticals in the first place by never flushing medications down the toilet or any other drain, and checking in on the filter technologies in place at their local wastewater treatment plant. Some advanced carbon filters can successfully remove pharmaceuticals from wastewater before it’s released into the environment.

  • United Nations climate report: We are in dire straits and it's getting too late

    Washington Post: Carbon dioxide levels at highest point in 2 million years

    A United Nations climate report authored by 34 people mining 14,000 scientific studies concludes that substantial climate change and its effects are now largely unavoidable but nations, municipalities and individuals can still take steps to minimize the consequences as much as possible.

    Here are some key points from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report:

    — Human-caused global climate change is an irrefutable fact. Now the debate is what we do about it.

    — Few if any signatories to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord met their pledged reduction targets.

    — At current emissions rates, the Earth will have heated to or beyond 2.7 degrees (F) above pre-industrial levels by the 2030s.

    — Hurricanes, cyclones, droughts, heat waves and other weather anomalies will worsen.

    The report comes as many present disasters linked to global warming unfold around the world. The second-largest wildfire in California history burned in the drought-stricken state; Greece dealt with historic wildfires; and Germany and the European Lowcountry reeled from an unprecedented rainstorm that destroyed entire towns and killed more than 200 people. Another heat wave is supposed to arrive in the Pacific Northwest this week.

  • FGS calls on TVA to get serious about addressing the climate crisis

    As Hellbender Press reported in April, the Tennessee Valley Authority plans to phase out its use of coal. And as we mentioned in an action alert, TVA is conducting a scoping process pertaining to the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for retirement and replacement of the Kingston Fossil Plant. TVA is preparing similar EIS for its other remaining coal-fired power plants as well.

    Although TVA lists "construction and operation of solar and storage facilities" in these scoping documents as an alternative for replacement of coal as the power source, it has made no secret of its belief that construction of gas-powered combustion turbines (CT) and natural gas pipelines to feed them will be the best solution to replace the outdated generation capacity.

    Unlike other power utilities, TVA has been making it more difficult, financially unattractive or impossible for distributed renewable energy, storage and even efficiency projects to get realized, according to proponents of renewables and some of TVA’s local power distribution partners. TVA also reneged on its agreement with other utilities to make large amounts of wind power available to the Southeastern United States through the Plains & Eastern Clean Line high-voltage direct-current power line project.

    Below, we reprint the statement submitted by FGS during the public comment period for the Kingston Fossil Plan Retirement.

    (Hellbender Press is a self-funded project of FGS).

     

    The Foundation for Global Sustainability urges TVA to truly step up to the challenges of climate change

    The action alternatives in the dockets for the replacement of TVA’s coal fired power plants are shortsighted and most disappointing.

    As a quasi-federal entity with a de-facto monopoly over a vast area of our nation, the Tennessee Valley Authority should strive to spearhead, exemplify, and not only meet — but exceed — most of the federal goals for decarbonization.

    By basing plans primarily on data of historic trends — unquestioningly projected into the future — TVA is apt to commit yet another horrendous miscalculation; it is prone to saddle itself with even more stranded assets.

    Addressing the climate change crisis

    Rarely a month passes without scientific discoveries of natural feedback mechanisms that aggravate the consequences of climate change. Signs that Earth’s natural life-support systems are approaching tipping points are multiplying.

    At the same time that uncertainty about prevailing conditions over the lifetime of infrastructure investments is growing, technologies are evolving at an increasing pace. Many private-sector corporations have already realized that time-proven business practices are no survival strategy.

    What’s called for today is more nimble management. TVA needs to focus on cooperative, adaptive planning for more flexible, responsive operations.

    A multitude of smaller investments that seek to attack problems from a diversity of facets will have greater probability of success than monolithic huge investments that are hard to revert, abandon, or repurpose.

    We encourage TVA to take a step back, to first look at what it can do to help improve the sustainability and resilience of our regional and local economies and of its large, small, and individual customers, WITHOUT investments that lock in carbon emissions for decades.

    Although we welcomed, appreciated, and supported TVA initiatives such as Energy Right, Green Power Switch and Generation Partners, one has to admit that in the larger context they amounted to little more than public relations Band-aids.

    Distributed renewable energy generation and storage

    It is high time for TVA to stop stonewalling renewable energies.

    The promising potential of widely distributed renewable energy generation and storage to minimize transmission losses and to boost community resilience is still largely untapped. It lends itself to easily manageable, quick turn-around, incremental projects that can readily be evolved and fine-tuned as new conditions, greater insights, and better technologies emerge.

    People in TVA’s service areas are no less likely to welcome and personally invest in solar energy and storage than the people of Germany have done, despite getting far less sunlight in their northern latitudes than we enjoy here; if only TVA relaxes its severe restrictions and abandons its adversarial stance.

    We call upon TVA to embrace, as major planning objectives, environmental sustainability and efficiency from energy generation all the way through end use.

    Sincerely,

    Wolf Naegeli, PhD
    President
    Foundation for Global Sustainability

  • One town tried to eliminate waste. Plastic posed a problem.

    Kamikatsu Yuki Shimazu

    Kamikatsu, Japan, famously declared its goal was to go waste-free by 2020. It didn’t quite get there.

    This story was originally published in The Revelator

    One of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic has been the quick and obvious increase in single-use plastic products. After COVID-19 arrived in the United States, many grocery stores prohibited customers from using reusable bags, coffee shops banned reusable mugs, and takeout food with plastic forks and knives became the new normal.

    Despite recent scientific evidence that reusables don’t transmit the virus, the plastic industry has lobbied hard for a return to all things disposable plastic. Inevitably, a lot of that plastic will continue to flow into our environment.

    While COVID-19 has certainly thrown a wrench into the hard-earned progress we’d been making in reducing waste, eliminating plastic pollution entirely was always going to be challenging — with or without a pandemic. The jarring rise of single-use plastics is an expedited version of a familiar trend. Plastic production has been steadily increasing for quite some time.

    As a zero-waste advocate, I’ve seen how the tsunami of plastic continuously being produced and flooding our planet has made achieving zero-waste goals incredibly difficult. The sheer amount makes it hard to safely and efficiently dispose of plastic, no matter how hard we try.

    But as I examine the problem, and search for solutions, I keep coming back to one noteworthy example. 

  • Scientists and engineers will examine potential role that rising sea levels contributed to Florida condo collapse

    Washington Post: Sea level rise will be investigated as one possible factor in Florida condo collapse

    There is no direct evidence yet that increased subsidence on a Florida barrier island caused by rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion contributed to the devastating collapse of an ocean-front condo complex near Miami, but the possibility will be examined in coming weeks and months.

    Rising sea levels threaten seaside properties on an increasing scale, undermining the unstable land on which they sit and further contributing to erosion of steel and concrete.

    In the case of Champlain Towers South, developers used fill from denuded mangrove stands to support the 12-story building, which was built in 1981.

    “Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the surface when material that supports it is displaced or removed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Erosion and the disappearance of groundwater are two of several factors that cause it,” the Washington Post reported.

    A least one engineer has said the collapse could be related to a structural problem, not subsidence. The investigation continues, as does the search for bodies.